One of the Philippines’ most precious natural treasures is also one of the most difficult to reach. Set in the middle of the Sulu Sea about 150 kilometres east of Puerto Princesa, the Tubbataha reef is part of a 970.3 square kilometer Marine Protected Area that in turn is part of The Coral Triangle, an area of the western Pacific Ocean that harbours nearly 600 different species of reef-building corals.
The Tubbataha reef is composed of three areas. The largest, the north atoll, has two islets – one serves as a bird sanctuary, while the other houses the park ranger station. On the south atoll, you will find the Tubbataha lighthouse. The Jessie Beazley reef is roughly 20 kilometers north of these two atolls.
The reef serves as a home and feeding ground for sea turtles, reef fish, commercially important fish and more, making it a scuba diver’s dream destination. But the window of opportunity is small, as the diving season in the area lasts for only three months (from mid-March to mid-June).
This short tourist season plays a vital role in the conservation of the reef, as permits and entrance fees help fund the management and patrolling of the park.
There are no accommodations in the area; you can arrange a trip via one of the dive operators based in Puerto Princesa. The dive operators fetch guests from the local airport and take them to the pier where the boat waits. These liveboards cast-off after dinner to reach the Park at first light ten hours later.